Thursday, March 30, 2017

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Russia

Source: Russia Insider

Putin's Russia is conservative and pragmatic. If that doesn't sound scary to you — it means you're a normal person 

March 29, 2017
by Paul Goncharoff  | 49

Editor's Note: This is a truly insightful and entertaining firsthand account of Russia through the eyes of someone who, like so many of us, was brought up to loathe the "Russkies". Find a comfortable chair, pour yourself a drink, and enjoy!

As a native New Yorker, brought up in the 1950s and 60s, I damn well knew what those Russkies were; pinkos, spies, commissars and worse! At public school I regularly had to squat under my desk while the nuclear attack alarms went off, all the while our homeroom teacher barked at us to make sure our eyes were closed and our faces turned away from the windows. All that bother because the communists were especially intent on turning our school into a thermonuclear barbeque.

Although born in Manhattan, my relatives all emigrated from a war torn Europe in the last years of the 1940s. Many of their friends shared similar experiences, some escaping the Nazis, some running from the reds, all running from poverty and post-war chaos. It was also the time of McCarthy, and the stamp this left on American perceptions was the 'them against us' view of the world. Being a fan of the Lone Ranger, Superman, Gumby and Bonanza, I teethed on us good guys always being right.

My friends were a mix of the immigrant inflow to the lower east side, Russians, Chinese, Greek, Italian, East European, you name it… we were all born in America, citizens, while many of our parents were still in the process of becoming. I noticed at an early age that many who immigrated to America became 'Super Americans'. McCarthy and his ilk were pansies compared to these ideological commie fighters from Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Russia. It was a worldview of absolutes, no middle ground, no compromise, just the good and bad. Much of America's expertise on Russia and Eastern Europe was heavily composed of such immigrants who left during or just after the chaos of war. These became our Soviet experts, our cold warriors. Theirs was a mindset largely fixed at a point in time, carried forward by their children and those they mentored with worldviews still influencing perceptions and positions in our foreign policy today.

In 1976, I was called into the office of the Chairman of our firm, a leader in the world of Platinum and Palladium. He seemed immensely pleased that my parents were from Russia. I corrected him, my mother was from Yugoslavia and my father from Russia, and they met in NYC — hence me. He made me an offer I could not refuse; "Young man, you are to fly to Moscow, obtain a supply contract, and do not dare return until you have done so." He was smiling when he said that, but this was the time of Brezhnev/Nixon détente and anything was supposedly possible with the cash-strapped Soviets. Priorities in my life then were girls, study and work, preferably in New York and not some Bolshevik heaven. Nevertheless, not thrilled at losing a good job by declining this weird opportunity, I agreed.

Please go to Russia Insider to read the entire article.

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